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World Bank, AfDB partner to connect 300 million to electricity by 2030

Electricity transmission towers

By Clara Nwachukwu

The World Bank Group (WBG), and African Development Bank Group (AfDB) are partnering on an ambitious effort to provide at least 300 million people in Africa with electricity access by 2030.

The World Bank also said it will work to connect 250 million people to electricity through distributed renewable energy systems or the distribution grid while the African Development Bank Group will support an additional 50 million people.

To do this, the global lender said about $30 billion of public sector investment would be needed to connect 250 million people, which International Development Association (IDA), its concessional arm for low-income countries, will be critical.

In addition, governments of the beneficiary countries are required to initiate policies to attract private investment, and reform their utilities so they are financially sound and efficient with tariff mechanisms that protect the poor. 

The WBG also noted that connecting 250 million people to electricity would open private sector investment opportunities in distributed renewable energy alone worth $9 billion. 

Beyond that, there would also be substantial opportunities for private investments in grid-connected renewable energy needed to power economies for growth, it added.

Access to electricity, it said, is a fundamental human right and is foundational to any successful development effort.

Currently, 600 million Africans are said to lack access to electricity, creating significant barriers to health care, education, productivity, digital inclusivity, and ultimately job creation.

Commenting on the partnership, WBG President, Ajay Banga, said: “Electricity access is the bedrock of all development. It is a critical ingredient for economic growth and essential for job creation at scale. Our aspiration will only be realized with partnership and ambition.

“We will need policy action from governments, financing from multilateral development banks, and private sector investment to see this through.” 

This partnership is a demonstration of the determination of the World Bank and the African Development Bank Group to be bolder, bigger, and better in tackling one of the most pressing challenges in Africa.

The initiative is the most recent manifestation of the World Bank Group’s commitment to become more impact-oriented and is the byproduct of a concerted workplan to build a better bank, it said.

It is aided by a constellation of regional energy programs that will now be aligned toward this common goal. 

Currently, 600 million Africans lack access to electricity, creating significant barriers to health care, education, productivity, digital inclusivity, and ultimately job creation.

Connecting millions to electricity

Discussing what it will take to connect millions of Africans to electricity at during a seeion at the ongoing WGB/International Monetary Fund (IMF), Spring Meetings in Washington D.C., country ministers, IMF, and AfDB leaders discussed how to help African leaders and their development partners to address barriers to achieving energy access goals.

Issues relating to climate change, access to market, funding, education, technical skills, gender and a host of others were raised on how they impact electricity access. 

Jem Porcaro, Senior Energy Partnership Specialist at the World Bank, told journalists that Climate change will indeed have adverse impacts on the energy sector in Africa, such as affecting the availability of renewable energy resources (e.g.: hydropower), increase vulnerability of energy infrastructure to natural disasters, and placing stress on existing infrastructure due to rising demand for electricity. Ensuring climate adaptation and resilience measures in the energy sector will be key.

He added that these measures can include investing in resilient infrastructure and diversifying energy sources, including through regional power trade, to ensure stable production.

The World Bank is also working to enable greater climate and carbon financing in the region through programs like the Accelerating Sustainable and Clean Energy Access Transformation (ASCENT) Program.

In terms of creating an energy-skill market, Mr. Porcaro said the World Bank aims to work together with governments and development partners to develop consumer engagement and awareness, effective advocacy strategies to create commitments, and actions for universal energy access in the region, and create knowledge for policymakers and practitioners in the sector to make informed decisions.

Like the ASCENT program, he said the World Bank is also exploring opportunities for partnerships with Africa’s academic institutions to implement targeted skills development programs to prepare and build the workforce for the energy transition.

Women and youth are disproportionately affected by lack to modern energy services.

The energy transition is an opportunity to advance equality and economic inclusion. Clean cooking solutions can have significant positive benefits on health and release time for women and youth to spend on education and other economic activities.

Additionally, Powering education and health facilities can also provide a proportionately larger benefit to women and youth. Targeted programs to ensure access to finance, raising awareness and providing business training are some other ways to include and empower women and youth in the energy transition.

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